NIU to add new circuits to alleviate busy phone lines

By Jerry Lawrence

Many students know trying to place a long-distance call from an NIU telephone can be a frustrating experience. Instead of hearing the loved one or friend that you called, occasionally you hear a deadpan recording which intones, “All circuits are busy, please try again later.”

However, after Jan. 1, overloaded long-distance circuits will be a thing of the past according to Walter Czerniak, NIU telecommunications operations director.

The news will come as a relief to some NIU students.

Colleen Blackburn, a sophomore history major, said she tried to call her mother in Florida. “I’m all excited to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to my mom, and all I could get was that annoying recording of that operator again,” Blackburn said.

Sophomore English major Grant Miller said he’s gotten the same recording about 10 times this semester. Miller said what upset him most was “it’s just a recording, so I don’t get to tell them what I really think of their stupid circuits and their stupid billing system.”

Czerniak said while problems placing long-distance calls are not widespread or constant, “typically, circuits are busiest after 10 p.m. when long-distance rates are lowest,” Czerniak said.

Czerniak said that new circuits are added each year, but demand also increases with every year. Czerniak added that a new arrangement between NIU, long-distance carrier MCI and GTE will eliminate the problems after the start of the new year.

Czerniak said the new arrangement will add 48 circuits to NIU long-distance service, bringing the total number of circuits to over 270. Czerniak also said every time circuits are busy, 24 new circuits will automatically be added to the system.

“Once new circuits are added, we won’t get rid of them again unless the service load goes down,” Czerniak said. He added that the load has not gone down during the six years he has headed telecommunications operations.

Miller said, “I just hope they don’t screw that up as bad as they’ve screwed up the (long-distance) billing.”

Blackburn remained skeptical. “I remember being told that the problems would be solved last year too,” she said.

Czerniak said complaints about telephone service are handled by Cindy Phillips at 753-0193.